Hasidism Incarnate: Hasidism, Christianity, and the Construction of Modern Judaism

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The Journal publishes peer-reviewed scholarship on the history, theology, and contemporary realities of Jewish-Christian relations and reviews new materials in the field. The Journal also provides a vehicle for exchange of information, cooperation, and mutual enrichment in the field of Christian-Jewish studies and relations. In the postscript to his book Hasidism Incarnate , Shaul Magid quotes Leo Strauss, who, similar to Leibowitz, defined Judaism as "the anti-Christian principle pure and simple" p.

However, in contrast to those views, writes Magid, Hasidism "presents a Judaism that subverts the categorical difference between Judaism and Christianity" p.


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How does Hasidism subvert these differences? According to Magid, it has to do with its "exploration of divine embodiment that crosses over to the incarnational" p. These texts had "adapted Christian motifs in order to polemicize against Christianity," but the Hasidic readers in the modern period were unaware of the original context of these motifs.

Hasidism Incarnate

The result was "a Jewish theology colored by incarnational thinking" p. Throughout the book's six chapters, Magid works on proving these main points. The first chapter gives an overview of Christian tropes as divinization and incarnation in Hasidic literature. The first Hasidic text to appear in print, Toldot Yaakov Yosef by Jacob Joseph, contains the notion of "superhuman potential.

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The latter agenda, dominated by the Maimonidean matrix, sought to prove how categorically different the two religions were. The second chapter deals with one of the most influential and well-known Hasidic masters, Nahman of Bratslav. Magid is correct in his interpretation of Hasidism with regard to the elevated value the movement attributed to the spoken word of the charismatic Hasidic leader. Nahman is considered an innovator of modern Yiddish literature, and his book of stories appeared in a bilingual Hebrew-Yiddish format since its first edition.

The lack of attention toward the theological significance bestowed by Hasidism on the Yiddish language more than "not Hebrew" , and its relation to the practice of Christianity, is a weak point in an otherwise fascinating examination of Nahman's charismatic speech, including reaching very interesting conclusions at its end. It argues that "Hasidic ethics was founded upon love of the divine other rather than law or supererogation However, what seems to be a sensible comparative approach puts into question Magid's repeated argument regarding the lack of interest by Hasidic masters in Christianity.

Rather than a Judaism "unencumbered by an external gaze" as in the West p. Koppel's Sha'arei Gan Eden is the focus of the fourth chapter. The fifth chapter crosses the terrain from Hasidic masters to neo-Hasidic scholars, when it deals with Martin Buber's Jesus compared to that of Shmuel Bornstein of Sochazev , a Hasidic master.

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Bornstein, in contrast to Buber, expressed a very negative attitude toward Jesus and presented him as a demonic figure. But for both thinkers, Jesus becomes a prominent figure for Israel. For Bornstein, he plays the role of the purifier of Israel, thus in reverse, he is key to its redemption.


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